H2ydrogen: Past, Present & Future

Hydrogen was first produced in the 15th century however its discovery is usually attributed to Cavendish in 1776, but it wasn’t named ‘hydrogen’ until 1783, by Lavoisier.  The first hydrogen related component failure was documented in 1875 when it was reported that the fracture surface of an iron wire ‘frothed when placed on the tongue’; the drawn wire having previously been descaled in sulphuric acid.

Despite it being known about for nearly 150 years, hydrogen cracking continues to be one of the most common failure mechanisms  however the of licking of fracture surfaces is no longer practiced; fractographic examinations having been superseded now by optical & scanning electron microscopy, and other more sophisticated metallographic and analysis techniques.

Press articles focus more on ‘The Hydrogen Economy’ rather than damage mechanisms, describing ways in which hydrogen will save us from ourselves by fuelling everything from cars to ocean liners, whilst at the same time helping us achieve ‘Net Zero’; and thus narrowly avoiding a visit by Keanu Reeves and his robotic accomplice, GORT.

Manufacturing Hydrogen Like There’s no Tomorrow!

Our aspirations to rapidly expand the hydrogen economy are evident by the vast swathe of installations across Europe, where you will find projects with appellations that invoke both  optimism and sustainability, such as ‘Green Octopus’ and ‘Blue Dolphyn’.  Obvious by its absence perhaps is a Hindenberg project! A poignant reminder that we should pay heed to the hazards involved.  As hydrogen usage filters more into the industrial and  public domain, greater will be the risk of component failure, fire, explosion and casualties.  Hydrogen is odourless, and burns with an almost invisible flame, so, design, fabrication and transport considerations must be commensurate with these hazards.

AXIOM Engineering Associates Ltd. possesses in depth hydrogen sector skills and knowledge and is ideally placed to advise on mechanical design, process safety and materials engineering.

Steve Woodward BSc CEng FIMMM
Principal Materials Engineer

T: +44 (0)1642 732745